In their first encounter since the contentious Nov. 20, 2019, meeting, South Whitehall residents and commissioners came together Dec. 4, 2019, to express their thoughts on the appointment of Joe Setton to fill the unexpired term of Commissioner Mark Pinsley.
Board President Christina “Tori” Morgan commented before public comments.
“We can’t have another meeting like the last one,” Morgan said. “Our vote was transparent and in full compliance with the laws.”
Residents, however, had a different approach to the matter.
Standing on a high point overlooking the community, the classic 1926 portion of Schnecksville Elementary School has been the focal point where generations of children received their education.
Now, Parkland School District officials have determined the building is inadequate for the needs of students and teachers today and would cost too much to renovate and bring up to code.
Instead of restoring the 93-year-old structure, the district plans to demolish it and construct a new addition on the southwest section of the property.
Confronted by a room overflowing with disgruntled residents, South Whitehall commissioners supplied reasons for their choice of Joe Setton to assume the position vacated by Commissioner Mark Pinsley.
Board President Christina “Tori” Morgan explained her reason.
“I wanted to bring someone in who didn’t have a predisposed opinion — someone who has an open mind,” Morgan said.
She added Setton brings balance to the board and is not a one-issue candidate.
Parkland School Board President Lisa Roth and Vice President David Hein were unanimously approved by fellow school directors to continue a second year in their positions.
Roth, a project coordinator at Air Products, joined the board 10 years ago when she was selected to fill the unexpired term of an member who resigned.
Since then, she was successful in 2011, 2015 and 2019 elections.
Roth commented on the vote during the board’s reorganization meeting on Dec. 3.
“I’m very honored to be serving as president for another year,” Roth said.
Members of the Parkland School Board offered words of gratitude and gifts to retiring fellow directors Robert Bold and Jef Reyburn for their years of service and commitment to the education of district children.
Bold served 20 years. Reyburn was on the board for eight years.
Superintendent Richard Sniscak offered comments at the Nov. 19 school board meeting.
South Whitehall commissioners have granted a waiver of subdivision and land development review to the township for renovations and construction at the municipal complex along Walbert Avenue, South Whitehall.
A resolution adopted in October states the project does not need to be reviewed and approved as a subdivision or land development, nor does it need to be reviewed by the township planning commission.
The resolution does not waive or modify any other requirements of the township or any other applicable regulations of county, state or federal agencies.
Parkland School District Business Manager John Vignone provided a first look at the 2020-21 budget during the school board’s Nov. 19 meeting.
He commented on the process.
“A lot of this is based on projections,” Vignone said. “We try to analyze and project what the exact amounts are going to be. Then we build our budget on that.”
He forecasts $188.2 million in revenue for the next fiscal year and $194.5 million in expenditures.
The shortfall of $6.3 million would need to be made up through increased income or through reduced spending.
South Whitehall staff will vacate the administration building in February 2020 and relocate to a rental facility while the first phase of the campus master plan improvement project begins.
Township Manager Renee Bickel said, during the Dec. 4 commissioners’ meeting, about 40 employees will move out, taking their computers with them, until the end of 2020.
The police department will remain on site at the present Walbert Avenue location.
South Whitehall commissioners awarded bids of $8.6 million to five contractors who will be carrying out renovations and new construction for the campus master plan.
Nonconstruction costs such as furniture, interest expense, professional fees, technology networking, and rental for the temporary office site will add nearly another $2 million to the project.
Director of Finance Steve Carr said at the Dec. 4 meeting the full cost will amount to $10.5 million.
It was nearly midnight, five hours into a marathon meeting with only a five -minute break, when Mark Pinsley announced his resignation from the South Whitehall board of commissioners due to his recent election as Lehigh County controller.
“I recommend Joe Setton be nominated to my seat. He had the second highest votes on the Democratic ticket and owns a business in the township,” said Pinsley.
When commissioners seemed favorable to Setton, the matter provoked an outcry from residents in the Springhouse Middle School auditorium.